Sunday, February 27, 2011

LP Review: K. Frimpong's Ghanaian Highlife

K. Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas [vinyl]

K. Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas

Continental Records

The four-song vinyl release by the late-K. Frimpong is a testament to his energetic, Ghanaian highlife music originally from the 1970's Ofo Bros. label. The vinyl edition is released by Secret Stash Records out of Minneapolis, MN. Vocalist K. Frimpong is backed by his Cubano Fiestas orchestra of fourteen members on vocals, guitars, drums, congas, piano, trumpet, synth, sax, and percussion. The faster paced rhythms and psychedelic textures border on palm wine music from Africa's Western coast. Though not structurely too dissimilar, palm wine guitar music developed earlier and was so-named due to frequent imbibing of palm wine made from palm tree flower sap. Nevertheless, K. Frimpong is as addictive as palm wine. Side 2 only contains one track: "Adam Nana (Medley)", which is a fourteen-minute romp through the Ghanaian jungle of sounds that are spectacular at the very least. The three other five-to-eight-minute tracks on Side 1 represent K. Frimpong's awe-inspiring, highlife beats that can only seem to come out of West Africa. If Ghanaian highlife is what you are craving, then look no further than K. Frimpong and His Cubana Fiestas. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, February 25, 2011

CD Review: Shubhraji's 'Chants For Healing'

Chants For Healing

Shubhraji's meditative, Sanskrit vocals lead the twenty-seven songs on Chants For Healing. As a devoted disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, Shubhraji is classically trained in Vedanta philosophy for the past twenty-plus years. All of the tracks feature Shubhraji on vocals and Rafiq Khan, from the Kalavant Center for Music and Dance, on sarangi. The instrumental drones and Shubhraji's trance-induced vocal delivery make it very easy to understand the lyrics and follow along in the liner notes, as all songs contain either Sanskrit and/or English translations. Interestingly, the songs play as one long, continuous song, even though there are twenty-seven songs listed on the back insert. The fairly, crystal-clear, yet slightly aged voice of Shubhraji is an inviting sound that transcends borders and cultural lineages. Put on some incense and bring out the yoga mat for a journey from within. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Go-Ray & Duke's 'The Yoga Sessions'

Go-Ray & Duke
The Yoga Sessions

As the title implies, one need not go very far to note the yoga references for Go-Ray & Duke's latest release, The Yoga Sessions. Sanskrit and Indian-infused elements grace the tracks of this one. Eleven tracks in all feature a few guest musicians notable in their own right, including Israel's Idan Raichel, Bansuri-flute master Steve Gorn, and hippest hip-hopper this side of Heaven, MC Yogi. The groovy beats of "Goddess Invocation" and Go-Ray's sensual vocals will summon anything and anyone within earshot. The other contemporaries in yoga music not associated with this album with a similar sound include Wah!, Girish, and Krishna Das. There are quieter moments, as well as hip-hop elements and jazzy-fusion with a trip-hop, electronica, and trance-like state of being. The addictive sounds of The Yoga Sessions are very desirable and they do not seem to wane long after the tracks are over. Though not traditional Hindustani or devotional music in the historical sense, Go-Ray & Duke set out to redefine the yoga vibes for a new generation. Try it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hadouk Trio's 'Air Hadouk'

Air Hadouk

The trio of Didier Malherbe, Steve Shehan, and Loy Ehrlich bring about a fusion product that encapsulates the essence of European, Middle Eastern, and North African sensibilities without sacrificing quality. Based in France, the trio formed its name from the first two letters of hajouj, which is a guimbri or lute indigenous to West Africa, and the last four letters of doudouk, which is an Armenian flute. The various instrumentation include gumbass, djembe, awicha, berber brushes, copper pot, sax, doudouk, conga, kora, khen, and others. The fusion feel of the album is evidenced by the mix of instruments and the absence of any vocals. In effect, the instruments are played in a way that evoke a jazzy-fusion continuum with odes to the African continent, Asian Diaspora, and Europe. Thirteen tracks and a seemingly endless supply of tones and moods signal the best the Hadouk Trio have to offer thus far. Air Hadouk will be touching down in a neighborhood near you...and you'll love it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Iness Mezel's 'Beyond The Trance'

Beyond The Trance

The Tamazight and French language singer with Algerian and Italian ancestral connections shares her latest release, Beyond The Trance, with the world. An album the pushes the boundary of trance into an environment brimming with rock, folk, and blues elements. It is no wonder producer Justin Adams (Tinariwen, Lo Jo, Natasha Atlas, and others) had a hand in the production, as it possesses a progressive Kabyle rock feel with some wayfaring. Of course, some songs do incorporate trance elements, including "Strange Blues", "Respect", "Chez Noo", "Cool Yiwen", "Semer", and of course, "Trance". The quieter, more reflective French-tinged "Tahkei't" showcases her vocal versatility. "Yhimlilit" is a percussion-based North African song of thanks in the vein of Djur Djura or the late-Ofra Haza. The cool sounds of Kabylia come alive with Iness' vocal mastery of ear-friendly incantations. All songs are sung in French and Tamazight. This is the perfect album for anyone interested in more modernized music with historic roots from Algeria and France. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 24, 2011

CD Review: Stevin McNamara's 'Prana Groove'

Prana Groove

Prana Groove is aptly named for a rhythmic and life sustaining journey of primal energy moving within and throughout the body. Guitarist, dilruba player, and percussionist, Stevin McNamara, present us with an hour-long journey of instrumental and monumental musical pleasure. The musical background of the tracks are highlighted in the liner notes. For instance, the melodic elements are based on Rag Malkauns and the tempo is 108 beats per minute. The nylon guitar, tanpura, various percussion, dilruba, and drum loops encompass the primary essence of the music. The wholly instrumental qualities allow for the rhythms and melodies to envelop the listener with sheer delight. Interestingly, there are only three tracks on the album. Though, the music is somewhat varied enough to keep ears interested without developing fatigue and boredom. Anyone with an interest in serious upbeat music for yoga, relaxing, or thinking, should choose Prana Groove as the way to go. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Fantasma's 'Fantasma City'

Fantasma City

The neo-cumbia sounds coming out of Argentina are showcased on Fantasma's latest album, Fantasma City. The Argentinian band flirts with Tex-Mex beats, Latin rhythms, electronica, and reggae beats with an astounding result. The psychedelic and electronic elements blend with the accordion, flutes, and heart-stopping percussion with an equal amount of gritty, in your face vocals. The dance beats, wild vocals, and engaging trance and eletronica songs echo around in one's head with a result leading to a high degree of satisfying pleasure. Twelve tracks feature a range of modern and urban vocal and electronic accompaniment with some of the better tracks. It is difficult to find much fault with anything Fantasma seems to do. Fantasma City is a fantastic album with every track a party unto itself. Perfect for fans of South American cumbia music and Latin electronica. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Geoff Berner's 'Victory Party'

Victory Party

Geoff Berner brings a modern approach to Klezmer music and heats it up with avant-garde beats and elements of punk, folk, and alternative music. Of course, the usual strings and horns grace some of the tracks, but the majority of his musical influences are from other sources, too. For instance, China is a big influence on "Mayn Rue Platz", the punky "I Kind Of Hate Songs With Ambiguous Lyrics", and the avante-garde "Rabbi Berner Finally Reveals His True Religious Agenda" shows us a variety of spoken word, classical, Klezmer, and pop directions that Victory Party weave in and out of. "Oh My Golem" is a more upbeat tune with avant-electronica and dance elements with Geoff's vocals. Victory Party is an album that makes one think of the Klezmer music in a whole new way, while the traditional repertoire of brass, strings, and vocals are a thing of the past. The various melodies, instruments, vocals, and rhythms are sure to shake up any Klezmer fan for the better. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Les Chauds Lapins' 'Amourettes'


Based on the French swing music of the 1920's - 1940's, Les Chauds Lapins (The Hot Rabbits), are Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt. Their latest effort, Amourettes (Flirtations), is the result of stripped-down, quirky musings set to music on banjo, ukulele, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, upright bass, and trumpet. Kurt plays the banjo ukulele and clarinet, while Meg plays the guitar, banjo, and soprano ukulele. Both musicians lend their vocals to the songs. The folksy rhythms and strings provide an authentically historical feel throughout. The songs are playful, fresh, and smart. Thirteen songs in all round out the package. This is perfect for fans of folk, Americana, French, and other acoustic European musics. Additionally, if you like the sweet and soft sounds of French cafe or swing music, then look no further with Amourettes. Liner notes are included in English and French. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Carlos "Go Go" Gomez' 'New Paradigm Global Music

New Paradigm Global Music

The global soundscapes and atmospheric washes of New Paradigm Global Music provide an inspirational, soothing, and reflective set of songs that border on electronica, dub, trip hop, and fusion. Carlos' guest vocalist on "Law of Attraction" is Jim Self. Jim's vocal accompaniment is spoken word dialog with an instrumental background. The heavier, electronic tune, "Zen Dance", is more motion-focused than others. Carlos' expertise on Latin percussion and West African drumming/religion provides the album with a mix of folk and modern beats that successfully mesh together. Other tracks are whooly instrumental and feature different melodies, rhythms, and moods. All in all, New Paradigm Global Music is a bright spot in the world of drumming and electronica, as it incorporates an influence from beyond the world in which we live. This is a perfect album for dancing, practicing meditation or yoga, or kicking back and relaxing with little in the way of guilt. Good for the mind, body and spirit. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Debo Band's 'Flamingoh (Pink Bird Dawn)'

Flamingoh (Pink Bird Dawn)

Debo Band is an Ethiopian tribute band for the sounds of Ethiopia's 1970's golden era of musical creativity. With a new album of live material, the number of songs on this album only ring in at four. Despite this, Debo Band proves superiority with minimalism. The four songs are "Musicawi Silt" by Girma Beyene, "Belomi Benna" by Abrar Abde/Mahmoud Ahmed, "Mignoten Man Yawkal" by Seyfu H. Mariam/Tezera H. Michael, and "Lantchi Biye" by Menelik Wossenachew. The first track, "Musicawi Silt", is a groovy, guitar and horn-driven masterpiece that is entirely instrumental. "Belomi Benna" is led by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye with another fine horn section and driving melodies and rhythms. "Mignoten Man Yawkal" is led by vocalist Selamnesh Zemene and she matches the beats with a small degree of earthiness and attitude in all the right proportions. The final song, "Lantchi Biye", is the other song led by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. This song almost borders on a Gypsy/Klezmer rhythm with a characteristic Ethiopian beat and tropical guitar stylings. Named after the peculiar and showy birds of the region, Flamingoh... is poised to make everyone dance around...including those creatures that are perched on one leg. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sara Banleigh's 'The Folk EP'

The Folk EP

The folk music of England, Scotland and Ireland serves as the focus of Brooklynite, Sara Banleigh, on her latest release, The Folk EP. However, only five songs are contained on the album with little in the way of musical accompaniment, except for the piano, violin, guitar, and viola. The absence of electronic arrangements and influences were not utilized, due to the authentic and historical translation and performance of the original tunes inherent in true folk music. The Irish folk tune, "Fhear A Bhata" (The Boatman), is a completely vocal tune without any instrumentation. The vocal beginning of the somber "Railroad Boy" quickly delves into a piano and violin medley with a sincere and emotive voice only Sara can emit with suave and elegance. The running length of twenty-five minutes may be a little short for most listeners, but the music is raw, honest, and historical. Anyone with an interest in the folk music of Western Europe, British Isles, Ireland, and beyond, will enjoy it in earnest. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Delhi 2 Dublin 'Planet Electric'

Planet Electric

The third release from the Canadian Delhi 2 Dublin, Planet Electric, continues to explore and expand the sounds of Western Europe with the sounds of South Asia for a globetrotting journey unlike any other. The Indian and Irish beats of "The Answer" is anthem of pure splendor. The modern reggae-type electronic club beats and fast vocals of "Raise It Up" make it a dance club hit. The scattered house beats of "Tommy" and "Cabin Fever" are sure to awaken the dance energy in every living soul. The most enjoyable track is appropriately titled "The Happy Track". A splendid Celtic/Indian-inspired tune with bright vocals matching the beat with ease make it shine like the sun rising in Calcutta or in Limerick. The quieter "Bodega Ridge Part 1 & 2" is an instrumental and dub-centered set of tracks that are more pensive than foreboding. All in all, it is amazing to hear the Celtic and Indian sounds on one album from a group nowhere near both regions. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Telepath's 'Crush'


Telepath is the brainchild of Michael Christie and it is composed of several musicians from around the world, including Jamaica, Africa, India, and the USA. The third release, Crush, is sure to keep up the beat of global trip hop, downtempo, dancehall, and electronica. A fresh and engaging sound is one of the most important hallmarks of Telepath. The groove-laden beats are especially attractive on "Justify", "In This Time", "Mama", "Carry The One", "Freedom", and "The Ancient Ones". The Bhangra beats of "Dust" and Indian-influenced "Rohi" and "Down The Block" possess definite Bollywood similarities. The tracks are mostly vocal and incorporate many instruments including snake charmer, keyboards, drums, bass, guitar, flutes, tumbi, violin, sitar, trombone, sax, and trumpet. "Critical Mass" is a psychtronica-driven, Balkan and Indian-fusion song of electronic excellence. A nice mix of sounds, instruments, and a globally-enveloped set of songs provides a well-balanced and most of all, intriguing collection of singers and rhythms from around the world. With a name like Telepath, you know it's going to be good before you even listen to it! ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, February 20, 2011

CD Review: Alexis Cuadrado's 'Noneto Iberico'

Noneto Iberico

As a bassist, composer, and co-founder of BJURecords, Alexis Cuadrado has amassed a stunningly-talented group of musicians for his latest release, Noneto Iberico. The reference to flamenco-jazz is particularly evident with the addition of trumpet, trombone, guitar, piano, sax, flute, drums, bass, and assorted percussion. The album is more akin to the jazzy-fusion of Latin America or tropical beat music. The entire album is instrumental and definitely explores the jazzier side of life without compromising the innate cultural elements of the songs. The shortest song is only six minutes, while the longest song is seventeen-and-a-half minutes. Eight tracks in all round out the listening experience. Everything from tropical, Latin, jazz, big band, cool/smooth jazz, and other related genres emanate from this release. If you are a fan of Norman Hedman, Brian Hughes, or Tito Puente, then this is for you. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nunavut, Canada's Karen Mackenzie

Wind Don't Blow

The folk and bluesy vocals and melodies of singer and guitarist Karen Mackenzie take Canada, or the world for that matter, by storm. The bluegrass, country, and pop-oriented repertoire is as hearty and sincere as a Northern winter. Karen is joined by accordion, whistle, mandola, bass, and drums. Vocally, Karen is a more mature version of the UK's Katie Melua. A folk musician with varied genre-bending abilities, Karen does not implore the use of fancy dubs and electronic smoke and mirrors. Instead, Wind Don't Blow is an album that features eight folky tunes that continue to play around in the heads of all who listen. "Givin' In" is easily a radio-friendly tune that accentuates Karen's writing and playing abilities. "Tangled The Thread" and "Makeup/Breakup Blues" follow closely with an equal amount of sincerity, sweetness, and pleasantness. "Dance Me Away" is a sweeping tune with an unforgettable melody. For a healthy does of Northern spirit, buy Wind Don't Blow today. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 17, 2011

CD Review: Afro-Peruvian Grooves on 'Pena Vol. II'

Various Artists
Pena Vol. II

The Afro-Peruvian songs of a meeting place for musicians, or "Pena", were recently released on Volume I last Fall. However, Pena Vol. II attempts to continue to follow-up the success of the previous release with amazing results. The source material was collected on a trip to Lima, Peru by producers and label owners, Cory Wong and Eric Foss. A combination of sweet, folk styles reminiscient of a Latin serenade grace the album's fourteen tracks. A mix of female and male vocals, Latin percussion, and scintillating rhythms mark another fine release of Peruvian culture on audio. Importantly, the release will only be available as a digital download at iTunes,, Napster, and the label's website. The decision to not market the music on vinyl or CD may not hamper sales or hinder the label's progress in any way. The music is perfect for lounging, dancing, or contemplating the next release from Secret Stash. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, February 11, 2011

CD Review: Banco de Gaia's 'Songs From The Silk Road'

Songs From The Silk Road
Disco Gecko

Banco de Gaia (aka Toby Marks) is a seasoned electronic DJ/remixologist with a flair for the sounds of the Middle East and Central Asia. The songs may be inspired by the East, but the music speaks volumes of different influences. The groovy, Engima-like song, "Tempra", is a fine composition with angelic, female vocals resembling a top song in a New Age music category. Moreover, the blurby electronica and percussive beats of "Sheesha" and house-type beats of "Glove Puppet" embody a purely electronic overtone with only slight resemblance to anything from the Middle East. Instead, Songs From The Silk Road is a musical journey more closely aligned with the trip-hop, downtempo, electronica-laden beats of world beat with less of an emphasis on the 'world' part. Still, the largely instrumental compositions are nothing to ignore, as the musical arrangements and remixes are top-notch. Semantics aside, Banco de Gaia is definitely a worthwhile contributor to global electronica and his latest releases proves it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tarun Nayar's '22 Degrees of Beatitude'

22 Degrees of Beatitude

Vancouver-based DJ/producer and electronica wizard, Tarun Nayar, is a global pioneer of Indian fusion and dance music. 22 Degrees of Beatitude is an album of lighter dance music and electronica that veers away from heart-pumping, dub-thumping sounds. Tarun's other work as a tabla and electronics guru with the Delhi 2 Dublin group certainly shaped and beautified his current release. The songs are mostly instrumental with little vocal accompaniment, except on "Innocence", "Kezang La", and "Mamaji". Taking the lighter side of dance music, Tarun shines with trippy, trance-inducing compositions without fatigued results. With titles as diverse as "Kezang La", "808s and Sheikh Sarai", and "Mamaji", the album is bound to be an intriguing journey through the aural sounds of the world. In fact, the double-pronunciation of 'beatitude' and 'beat-itude' still means utter bliss or happiness. Tarun Nayar is sure to conjure up loads of happiness wherever his tunes are played and performed. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Are You Looking For A World Music Recording? I Can Help.

If you are looking for a rare, out-of-print, or currently available compact disk that fits the world music genre, I might be able to help you find it. Send me your want lists and I will do my best. Email me:

Matthew F.
Inside World Music